*Major spoilers for season 1 of Outer Banks below!*
Netflix’s latest YA series, Outer Banks, goes way beyond your typical teen drama. Though the plot may seem like your run-of-the-mill treasure hunt, the story and its band of impossibly cool kids tackle a series of ultra-relevant culture and class issues. Thanks to the island setting and the two rival groups of characters—the Pogues and the Kooks—that must coexist there together, the show illustrates how inescapable the labels of society can be. Kiara, played by Madison Bailey, is undoubtedly the character who struggles to break free from her label most. Though she might seem like a Pogue through and through, Kiara's fight with her identity reveals there’s more to her character than meets the eye.
In an exclusive interview with Seventeen, Madison Bailey reveals what it was like to bring the character of Kie to life and how she connected with the story on a whole new level. Plus, we get some intel on that ~crazy~ season finale!
17: You were in Black Lightning before Outer Banks. Was there something from that show that you took with you when starting this one?
Madison Bailey: Black Lightning was the first recurring role I ever had. Coming back to a set really gives you the opportunity to get to know everyone more. I had time to build relationships with people and ask what their jobs were on set. I got to learn more about all of the moving parts behind the camera. So going into Outer Banks with more knowledge on that definitely helped.
17: This was your first leading role. How different was that for you in terms of how you approached the character?
MB: I got to really dive into my character. When I first booked the role, I went in my notes and basically created a bio for Kiara. [Mainly] things never talked about on the show, but things I needed to figure out in order for her to come across as a real person. When you DAY play on a show, and your storyline doesn’t really intersect with the main plot, there’s not a lot of pressure. But, being a lead, you have to make sure your character is consistent and cohesive.
17: What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far about playing Kie?
MB: Take more risks and respect yourself enough to forget what’s expected of you and go out and find people you genuinely connect with. Who cares what anyone else has to say about it.
17: Was there a moment during the making of the show where you knew you were making something special?
MB: I knew the first night I spent with all the Pogues. Feeling the friendship and feeling the immediate connection, I knew that every single one of us was going to put our hearts into this story. Just talking to everyone and hearing about where our lives were at before we booked the show and knowing how committed we were was great. You felt the energy of such a wholesome and down to earth group.
17: You’re from North Carolina, what was it like filming something based in your home state? Did you show your cast members around? Did you feel like it was authentic?
MB: I never imagined I’d be filming a show about North Carolina. During our hiatus, we went up to Asheville, and I got to show them my side of the state and how absolutely gorgeous it is. Obviously, the story is fiction, but the atmosphere felt real. Being outside and fishing and going out on the water is what growing up looked like for me.
17: Kiara is a unique character because it doesn’t seem like she fits in anywhere. What was it like bringing that side of her to life?
MB: It’s probably my strongest tie that I feel to Kiara. I was adopted into a white family. As a kid, you don’t realize that you're riding on a privilege that doesn’t belong to you. Growing up and going out on my own and [I realized I was] being treated differently than I had been my whole life. People using derogatory words or saying harsh things were completely foreign to me. It took a while to find my footing and realize who I am and how I’m viewed when I’m not standing with my parents. I think not fitting in anywhere is something a lot of mixed people specifically struggle with, especially in a small town in the south.
17: One of the things that makes this show so real is the way privilege and money affect the island and the people who live there. What was that like?
MB: I’m all too familiar with Kooks. Go anywhere in the south, and you’ll feel the divide we’re talking about. Or look at it from a grander view and see how it’s running this country. And see how money can get you any job that you’re not qualified for.
17: Is there something in particular that you hope fans take away from Kie and her arc this season?
MB: I hope Kiara can lighten people up. Find the balance of being carefree and being passionate about the right things. Kiara has a big heart, and I hope people feel that and open up their own hearts.
17: What was it like filming the Kie/Pope crush reveal scene?
MB: Pope telling [Kiara] he loves [her] is one of my favorite scenes in the show. On the day, we filmed so many different versions of it —some lighter and funnier, and some more serious and emotional. Leaving that night, I had no idea which one they were going with. Watching the final cut for the scene made me so much more emotional than I expected.
17: Do you think that the Pogues will get some sort of revenge on Ward since they believe John B. and Sarah are dead?
MB: Absolutely! It would be very off-brand if we didn’t.
17: How do you think this loss will affect them in season two?
MB: There’s gonna be a whole new dynamic. How do you go about life without your best friend? I think it’s going to be rough on everyone. And we’re going to have to come together and take care of each other now more than ever. But revenge is going to be on all of our minds.
17: What are your hopes for Kie in season two?
MB: I hope we get to see more of what Kie does best, which is being brave and being a true friend.
17: Now that people go to know you in Outer Banks, what other projects are you working on that you’re excited for fans to see?
MB: Due to COVID-19, we are all kind of on a break. But I filmed a show on NBC called Council of Dads that I hope fans watch!
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